Documerica

Let's Talk!

By Jessica Orquina

I’m the Social Media Lead for EPA. It’s my responsibility to lead EPA’s efforts to share information and communicate using social media. I work with my colleagues to make it possible for you to learn about our work on Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Flickr, YouTube, and our blogs.

On Facebook and Twitter we share information that you can use to protect your environment. Like or follow us and receive tips you can use every day or to learn about the environment. On Foursquare we post tips at locations across the country and around the world. Check in at Olympic National Park in Port Angeles, WA or Rockport Harbor in Rockport, MA and see Documerica photos taken at those locations 40 years ago. EPA employees share their experiences and ideas with you on our blogs. Read about environmental tips, how EPA uses science to protect the environment, environmental justice, and many other EPA programs. We even have a Spanish blog! Check out our YouTube and Flickr stream to see photos and video of the work we have been doing.

We hope you find the information we share and the conversations that result interesting and useful. And we’re always trying to improve what we do

This is where you come in… What can we do better? Where do you want to connect with EPA online? What type of information would you like us to be sharing with you via social media?

Share your ideas and help us make this conversation more valuable. Tell us what you think in the comments below!

About the author: Jessica Orquina works in the Office of External Affairs and Environmental Education as the social media lead for the agency. Prior to joining EPA, she served as a public affairs specialist at another federal agency and is a former military and commercial airline pilot. She lives, works, and writes in Washington, DC.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Some Things Never Change

By Jeanethe Falvey

Documerica has me reflecting on time and change all over the place. Revitalizing and conversing about the project to others, we’re mostly hoping things have improved. With forty years of increased government attention to environmental issues it certainly has, but new challenges have also risen.

Yet, there are a few strands within what Documerica captured in its web of moments that leaves plenty of room for nostalgia. Glancing at some of the photographs you might find yourself wistful about what might have been or simply what was.

For me, as someone who didn’t live through it, I’m simply not over nor will I ever be, the incredulity that the project happened at all and was protected so that we can reflect on it forever.

Life was slower back then for one thing. What would happen now if we pulled into the station only to find another sign that said “Sorry, No Gas Today.” There are world crises, and there are individual events in our lives that force us into the slow lane, and it’s not so bad there for a little while.

Recently, I let up on my breakneck pace to go “fishing” with my father.

That morning we set out with two different ideas of where we were going. I thought we would explore my favorite lake in western, Maine. He thought, to my second favorite. It’s my second favorite for a few secrets, but one fact in particular: something always goes wrong.

Laughing, I brought this up as we took a right instead of a left, reminiscing about the last time my mom camped with us. She’s tough, but I’m not sure if it was the severe lightning or the monsoon washing away our tent that nailed that coffin.

Another time, the engine gave up in the middle of the lake. Somehow, my father pulled off the herculean effort of SWIMMING the boat back.

But it was a new day, and we had a full tank of gas.

The day was pleasant, I with a book and dad with two poles to catch that unlucky trout. Moving to a calmer cove, the familiar sound of a four-stroke struggling came back to present day.

We eventually made it back, but it wasn’t without a few photographs of the engine cover off so I can prove to our family that some things never change.

About the author: Jeanethe Falvey writes from EPA’s Office of External Affairs and Environmental Education, as the project-lead for Pick 5 and the State of the Environment, two projects geared towards learning, sharing and gaining a greater collective connection to our environment.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Check In to Check Out our Tips on Foursquare

By Jessica Orquina

Do you check in everywhere you go? Are you the mayor of your favorite coffee shop, café, or park? Then you’ll want to check this out. I’m excited to announce that EPA has joined Foursquare! Here is the link to our page:

http://foursquare.com/epagov

On Foursquare, we’re leaving tips about the environment across the country and around the world. Check in at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) here in Washington, DC and learn about the history of our agency. Travel to Mount Hood National Forest and get our tip about how you can participate in the State of the Environment Photo Project.

So far, we’ve left tips at about 100 locations. We’ll continue to add tips and share environmental information with you at places on throughout the country. Let us know which tips you find useful!

We’re also going to create lists of places you may want to visit. To start, we created a list of locations where Documerica photographs were taken. Documerica was a project EPA embarked on from 1972 to 1977 to document environmental conditions and concerns in the United States. Soon, we’ll be adding lists of estuaries, urban waters projects, and more.

Where would you like us to leave tips? Share your ideas in the comments below. And like us on Foursquare today!

Like us on foursquare


About the author: Jessica Orquina works in the Office of External Affairs and Environmental Education as the social media lead for the agency. Prior to joining EPA, she served as a public affairs specialist at another federal agency and is a former military and commercial airline pilot. She lives, works, and writes in Washington, DC.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Pictures Can Save a Thousand Worlds

by Jeanethe Falvey

Not many can say they’ve been to the Serengeti countless times, much less been there to save it. One of the first photographers chosen for Documerica, Boyd Norton, has dedicated his life to protecting some of our planet’s most incredible places.

If you’ve opened up an outdoors magazine over the last few decades and been taken away by images of Lake Baikal, Siberia (home to the only freshwater seal species), or been inspired to climb the Tetons in Wyoming, his work has reached you. If you ever wondered what it would be like to come across a Komodo dragon in Indonesia, a gorilla in Rwanda, he’s touched you.  If you’ve ever paused, for just a moment, to imagine life as one of the islanders that couldn’t see their fate in time as they ravaged their natural resources on Rapa Nui (Easter Island), Chile, then you have been a part of it.

What if those places had never been photographed?

What if their struggles to survive had never been shown to a broader public?

What if the beginnings had never been documented, letting the devastating changes occur in silence?

That’s the power of a photograph.

Boyd participated with Documerica from 1972 to 1975, covering the original and forgotten solar energy boom, strip mining in Wyoming, and ranching families in Montana .  Like many whom the project touched, he never let it go. For years, he has tried to bring it back to life to no official avail. I spoke to him recently, and I’ve been working to contain my excitement ever since. There is everything to be gained by once again having his enthusiasm and insight involved. If we pull off a fraction of what we brainstormed, it will help see through the original intent of Documerica, which will be a lasting achievement for all of us.

As Boyd put it, “you get personally involved with these things.  I would love to go back and see 40 years later today.”

I’m so grateful I had a chance to speak with Boyd, although I’m not sure that grateful does it justice. Just like meeting Michael and Chuck, and speaking to David, Gary, Tom, Bill and more to come, I will always carry deeper gratitude that these incredible places, animals, and ecosystems still exist, in part because of their dedication and talent.

About the author: Jeanethe Falvey writes from EPA’s Office of External Affairs and Environmental Education, as the project-lead for Pick 5 and the State of the Environment, two projects geared towards learning, sharing and gaining a greater collective connection to our environment.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

A Nature Walk Through Bear Country

By Jeanethe Falvey

Having my father read the tales of the Berenstain Bears, night after night, left a few impressions on my developing mind. What really stuck were the examples he provided, much like the illustrated situations Papa Bear would end up in.

Life is an adventure and quite rarely does it go to plan.

One summer day when I was about seven, my dad and I were returning from one such adventure, soaking up nature, riding our bikes down a dirt road in Maine. As we were nearing home, he decided to show his little girl just how cool of a dad he was.

“Now let me show you something…”

With one swift maneuver he borrowed my blue banana seat bike and proceeded to announce that he could ride it backwards down a hill.
One of those moments where life rarely goes to plan.

I can still see his expression change as the bike veered to the left, into the ditch among the branches and bramble, feet in the air, finally coming to a stop against a mossy log. It was, to this day, one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. In between fits of giggles I managed to ask him,

“Is that Papa Bear lesson number 432?”

During a visit home a couple weeks ago, my mom pulled out a well worn book I hadn’t seen in years: A Nature Walk Through Bear Country by Stan and Jan Berenstain. Memories came flooding back when I opened it. On page seven, I could barely contain my excitement finding the words:

“What IS Nature?

It’s everybody and everything –
a peacock’s tail, a butterfly wing.
It’s snails and stones and dinosaur bones.
Volcanoes! Earthquakes…Cousin Liz!
That’s just a part of what nature is.
…It’s the Earth itself –
The rocks and soil.
And from under the Earth come coal and oil.”

I’m convinced that, two decades ago, that book shaped why I speak the way I do about EPA’s State of the Environment project. Why I keep challenging the notion that “environmental photos” are not just landscapes. Why Documerica, its early inspiration, was right on.
I hope as the weather warms you can enjoy a nature walk where you live. Have kids? Ask them what the environment is and have an adventure, even laughs, discovering it. It’s an opportunity to open their eyes for the rest of their lives.

About the author: Jeanethe Falvey writes from EPA’s Office of External Affairs and Environmental Education, as the project-lead for Pick 5 and the State of the Environment, two projects geared towards learning, sharing and gaining a greater collective connection to our environment.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Documerica in Focus: Charles “Chuck” O’Rear

By Jeanethe Falvey

He set an older camera on the table so I would recognize him. In a quaint coffee shop in St. Helena, California, I finally had a chance to sit down with Chuck and meet him in person.

While he is the likely front-runner with the most photographs in the final Documerica collection, his images are not yet in Flickr. Only about 4,000 have been scanned into the National Archives Flickr account, but over 15,000 images actually exist and are available in NARA’s online Archival Research Catalog. It requires patience, but searching by Documerica photographer, state, or environmental topic is worth the digging.

I asked him how he took this photo, a favorite that I found:

Crop dusting near Calipatria in the Imperial Valley, 5/1972 by Charles O'Rear.

Crop dusting near Calipatria in the Imperial Valley, 5/1972 by Charles O'Rear.

How quickly did he have to duck and cover? No tripod, he confirmed. His memory of that exact photo was a little foggy, fair enough, but he said he was highly doubtful that the pilot pulled up in time. With a chuckle he said he was glad he’s still around, but that dosage of pesticides was just one of those moments that comes with the territory of being a photojournalist. Taking risks is living, he says.

His Documerica assignments took him throughout California, down along the Colorado River on the Mexican side of the border, Hawaii and more. He kept coming up with ideas and Gifford Hampshire kept sending him out.

I could have sat with him for hours and just about did. It was easy to zing from topic to topic, place to place around the world. Since Documerica, he photographed for National Geographic magazine for 25 years. It was going to be a challenge to name a place he hadn’t traveled to. So I tried.

“Been to Palau?”

Colorado River on the Mexican side of the border, 5/1972 by Charles O'Rear

Colorado River on the Mexican side of the border, 5/1972 by Charles O'Rear

Shockingly, my first attempt got him, but he has been to Yap! Yap is an island stopover on route to Palau. I saw it in the dark. During a story about currencies around the world, he photographed the Yapese Rai: large stone disks that were brought back by rafts and determination from Papua New Guinea and Palau. Today, islanders and visitors use the American dollar, but Rai are still ceremoniously exchanged.

His adventures continue; he just returned from Australia and can’t wait to get back. This weekend, take a look at Chuck’s recent work. You’ll want a glass of chardonnay and a ticket to Napa.

About the author: Jeanethe Falvey writes from EPA’s Office of External Affairs and Environmental Education, as the project-lead for Pick 5 and the State of the Environment, two projects geared towards learning, sharing and gaining a greater collective connection to our environment.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Documerica in Focus: Gary Truman

“You’re capturing a slice of history, every time that shutter closes,” says Gary as our phone call comes to an end.

Documerica is full of stories; after all that was its intent. In my incredible opportunity to speak with some who were involved, I’m finding out a few stories behind the stories and that’s where the fun is.

Gary Truman was one of several graduate students who accompanied Flip Schulke to the quaint, German town of New Ulm, Minnesota in 1975. Flip knew Gifford Hampshire who was the life, energy, and vision behind Documerica. One of Flip’s contributions for the project was to head back and cover the life and environment; as Gary puts it, “in a town that adopted him.”

Documerica photo by Gary TrumanTaking his advanced students, some like Gary who were already working professionally, Flip asked for their ideas to cover this community. What resulted was a week of moments in a small American town; its births, its deaths, its churches and schools, its streets and its faces. Hundreds of photographs forever captured a slice of New Ulm’s history.

I mentioned to Gary that we’ve gotten questions about State of the Environment, “Can it really match up to Documerica?” Given that Documerica was often times so up close and personal. State of the Environment by name more easily evokes the idea that we’re looking for photos of landscapes, but it’s about everyday life too. That is the reality of how we’re interacting and living within our environment. So I asked, “Did you consider the environment during your work there?”

“The life there was absolutely about the environment. New Ulm could not have been the same town surrounded by mountains, or coal mines. The older couple I photographed, with their hybrid stove, you wouldn’t see that today. That’s a picture of history, the reality of their environment at the time.”

Growing up in West Virginia, he watched a nearby river go from “a place I wouldn’t enter unless it was to pull a friend out, with mutated and dead fish, to a clean place where you can now catch small mouth bass.”

Sometimes the connection isn’t obvious, the story of change isn’t as easy to see without a ‘then’ and ‘now.’ We took a moment to reflect on the potential power that State of the Environment holds.

“Yeah, there’s work to be done,” he says, “but boy we’ve come a long way.”

About the author: Jeanethe Falvey writes from EPA’s Office of External Affairs and Environmental Education, as the project-lead for Pick 5 and the State of the Environment, two projects geared towards learning, sharing and gaining a greater collective connection to our environment.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Documerica Returns!

students taking pituresRecently the National Archives and EPA launched a contest that I wish I could enter myself. I could, if I change my name, age, birth date and occupation, but since that would be frowned upon I’ll stick to what I’m doing behind the scenes.

Unlike those of us excitedly working on this project, students ages 13 to 18 plus college or graduate school students CAN participate. Now is the time for teens to get inspired about their environment!

When you become more in touch with your surroundings and the state of the planet, you might develop a heightened state of eco-awareness and feel a sense of “green-powerment.” You may come home from school and roll your eyes at your parents if they toss away recyclable goods, or forget those re-usable shopping bags or leave the water running. Regardless of the manner in which you communicate your newfound knowledge, in many cases you feel good doing so, especially when your friends are doing the same.

Right now, there is an opportunity for that energy and creativity to be part of an international project, recognized by renowned judges and exhibited around the United States. On top of that, the grand prize for this contest will be $500, courtesy of the Foundation for the National Archives.

http://documerica.challenge.gov/

Jeanethe Falvey, State of the Environment project-lead at the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Boston, Massachusetts.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

What Glaciers Teach Us

For as long as I can remember, my family has vacationed somewhere new every summer. We went on the typical Disney World trip, of course, as well as trips to many cities and beaches. The most memorable trips, however, were the “wild” places. We’ve visited Yellowstone National Park, the Badlands, the Rocky Mountains in Colorado and Canada, the Grand Tetons, and the Adirondacks. In each of these places, I’ve marveled at the wonder and beauty of nature, yet also feared for its survival during the continuous push for modernization.

One of the most beautiful yet sobering experiences was seeing the Athabasca Glacier in the Canadian Rockies. While driving from Banff to Jasper on the Icefields Parkway, we stopped to tour the Athabasca Glacier, part of the Columbia Icefield. Riding a snow coach onto the glacier was an amazing, albeit slightly terrifying experience, as we were educated about the huge, unseen crevasses that have killed unwitting tourists.

That ride out onto the glacier didn’t leave the biggest mark on me, though. Rather, it was walking up a winding, steep trail to the base of the glacier, seeing the markers of the glacier’s recession at a frighteningly fast pace over the last 125 years.

The glacier’s recession plainly illustrates what is happening to our natural wonders around the world. These natural wonders are coming under siege and slowly disappearing. I want to be able to take my own family to the places I’ve been, so they can see what I saw and experience the same breathless awe. However, I am afraid that when I return, these places will be a shadow of what they once were.

As much as I want to go back to the Athabasca Glacier, I am almost dreading it. How much smaller will it be?  I’ve documented all of my nature trips so far, and will continue to do so. I just hope that the before and after photos aren’t too different; if the location has changed at all, I hope it’s for the better.

With the State of the Environment project, we are hoping to document our surroundings today for two reasons: one, to look back at Documerica and see how far we’ve come, and two, to look to our future and see what we need to do.

About the author: Katherine Stodola, Office of Web Communications Intern in Washington, D.C.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Photographer in Focus – Michael Manheim

Last week, I had the luck of place and time to meet one of the foremost photographers chosen to contribute to Documerica. When photography began in 1972, the Environmental Protection Agency was barely two years into working to better protect public health and the environment. Now, decades later, the inspiration behind this monumental project is once again gaining the attention it deserves.

Each photographer gave us reasons for disbelief and awe, but also for hope. In some places we can see the impact that their raising awareness had. How did you react to these images? In every sense, ‘reaction’ is a response to some influence or event. Perhaps again, State of the Environment can inspire individual awareness and environmental action the world over.

I met Michael Manheim last week at a gallery talk of his at the Griffin Museum in Belmont, Massachusetts. Among the exhibit of his early work, there quietly hangs one of the more eye-catching moments he caught from East Boston in 1973. Documerica was one of many photography endeavors he took on. Back then he says, “You did whatever it took to keep yourself going.” Today, his work reflects the freedom he has to focus deeper (take a look, you’ll see).  After a lifelong career in photography, any of his images could have been on display. There, when I saw “Landing at Logan,” the pride he felt from being a part of Documerica was self-evident.

Like the other photographers, Michael was tasked to submit subject matter of his choice for the project. It was about “connection;” he was excited with “the idea of reaching the public and raising individual awareness.” Ultimately, the struggle and anxiety felt by a close-knit community beside Logan Airport drew him in. Relatives from those who lived in the area are still in touch, and his living room photographs leave no doubt that he made the connection he was hoping for.  Today most of those houses are gone, replaced by concrete and airport service lots.  He wonders what could have been, if he could have raised awareness sooner.

One glimpse into the many stories told through Documerica. State of the Environment is your chance. Show us what you see.  What new stories will be told?

About the author: Jeanethe Falvey, State of the Environment Project Lead U.S. EPA Office of External Affairs in Boston, Massachusetts

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.